By Dick Jerardi
There were just six weeks until the Kentucky Derby when unbeaten Life is Good finished off a tour de force workout last Saturday at Santa Anita Park. When the brilliant colt left the track, he was one more prep race (the Santa Anita Derby) and a few more works away from heading to Kentucky as the obvious Derby favorite.
And then, back at the barn, it became obvious to trainer Bob Baffert and his team that something was off. The colt took some funny steps. Tests were done and it was determined that there was a small chip in his left hind ankle. Surgery will be performed. It is nothing Life is Good can’t come back from, but the timing could not have been worse.
The colt will need 60 days to recover, so, by the time Life is Good is ready to start training again, the Triple Crown will be nearly over. Add the brilliant colt’s name to that what-if list for horses that could have won the Derby if they had gotten the chance.
The 2021 Derby is now, of course, much more wide open, with the Baffert-trained Concert Tour and the Brad Cox-trained Essential Quality at the head of the class as they get ready for their final prep races.
Baffert said Life is Good will be back later in the year and even promised he could be at his best for the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar. We can only hope.
ANOTHER MIGUEL PENALOZA SUCCESS STORY
Miguel Penaloza took over the training of Exogen a few months ago. The 3-year-old filly came up from Florida to Parx. The trainer thought so much of her that he entered her in the $100,000 Cicada Stakes last Saturday at Aqueduct. She was completely overlooked in the field of four, sent off at 22-1. If the race had been 6 furlongs and a few jumps, the filly would have won it.
Exogen closed relentlessly up the rail, passing 4-5 favorite Save and nearly catching 3-1 Just Read It. She lost by ahead.
Penaloza only has 12 horses in his Parx barn, but add stakes-placed Exogen to multiple stakes winner Share the Ride and the trainer has much to look forward to in 2021.
THE PARK STANDINGS
As we approach the end of March, a quarter of the way through the year, some familiar names are atop the Parx trainer and jockey standings.
Jamie Ness, a runaway winner of the trainer’s race in 2020, leads with 23 winners. Scott Lake is second with 14 while Joe Taylor, the 2019 winner, and Lou Linder each have 13. Ness has started 125 horses and a cool 75 of them have finished in the top 3.
Ruben Silvera leads the jockey standings with 32 winners, followed by Frankie Pennington with 26 and last year’s winner Mychel Sanchez has 21.
KENDRICK CARMOUCHE FLYING HIGH IN NEW YORK
Kendrick Carmouche, the Parx Hall of Famer who won 200 or more races each year from 2007-2012, won his first New York jockeys’ title at the shortfall Aqueduct meeting last year. He is a week away from taking his second straight title. Carmouche has been in front virtually all the way at the Aqueduct winter meet that began Dec. 10 and ends March 28. He has 72 winners, seven clear of Eric Cancel.